I have just finished the road-trip books by Roland Merullo that have a philosophy side to them. I was hooked early on by Breakfast with Buddha ,the first book in the series and really enjoyed meeting Otto, his screwy sister, and her boyfriend, the semi-Buddhist priest, Rimproche. At first I was skeptical (as was Otto) about all this meditation and enlightenment “stuff,” and followed more closely Otto’s efforts to show Rimproche the “real America.” Picturing the Burgundy, gold-trimmed robed priest playing miniature golf and bowling was a fun thought, but soon I began to pay more attention to the Holy Man’s words. I think Otto’s reaction followed the same trajectory. By the end of Breakfast, I, like Otto was beginning to really like Rimproche and to wonder if there wasn’t something to this meditation “thingy.”I began to notice and sometimes read columns and articles that touted the value of meditation that came my way.

Lunch with Buddha continued the saga, Rimproche now married to Otto’s sister with a small daughter. This second book dealt with another road trip, but also with Otto’s maturation of a spiritual side which was clearly necessary for him to survive the death of his beloved wife. It went into detail about his meditations, his seeking for enlightenment, and the relative success he had with both. My inquisitive mind and spirit “ate this up”! By this point I had found a columnist in our Houston newspaper that came out each week, featuring self-care and advocating guided meditation as a way to destress, relax, and change one’s busy lifestyle. I downloaded twenty something guided meditations and began enjoying them on a regular basis. In fact, I became “good at it” and saw a definite relax in my normal “driven” attitude and lifestyle.

That’s when the fun began. Book three , Dinner with Buddha (published in 2015–hopefully there will be a book four, maybe “After Dinner Coffee With Buddha,” LOL, because this book upped and amped the plot 100%. Otto’s little niece turns out to be a very special child with special abilities (bordering on superpowers, LOL). Plus sinister Chinese strangers seem to be stalking her and her family and join the “chase” across country in the third road trip. Talk about action! The final meet-up in Las Vegas, of all places, is action packed and eerie to say the least. Otto comes to a turning place in his life and the end of the book gives us his dramatic decision. All of this action and many side-trips to National parks and scenic places manage to tie in all this meditation recommendation with an appreciation of Nature and a sense of cosmic and spiritual benefits to those who seek.

The three road trips with Otto and Rimproche have not only been a darned good, fun read, but they have enlightened my way of thinking about meditation specifically and “religion” in general. Who says a novel (or series of novels) can’t make you think?



shopping-1.jpegToday’s recommendation is a middle grades (5th-8th) novel that chronicles the life of twelve year old Lyndie. It takes place in 1985 Tennessee when Lyndie’s grandmother is trying to induct her into the necessity of loyalty to family and keeping “family business” private. Lyndie is the family “history buff” and discovers that her depressed and defeated mom used to be an activist against the unjust war in Vietnam, which is ironic because Lyndie’s dad is a Vietnam vet, struggling with alcohol and PTSD.

Neighbors and Lyndie’s friends reach out to her, only to have their efforts rejected by Lyndie’s grandmother, who labels them “nosy neighbors.” Lyndie needs┬áthe support of friends her grandmother tries to keep her away from as she deals with her family situation. How she finally acquires this and teaches her extended family the cost of keeping secrets is the theme of this book.

On one hand, I hate to think of middle grade students dealing with depression, alcohol, or the fear of “what will people think” on the part of their family; but on the other, these are current family issues kids are actually dealing with every day. If one child can be taught to reach out and can better their lives by doing so, then I say, this is a helpful book that will convince our students that “they are not the only one…”